Atticus Finch has not changed

Monday, July 27, 2015

One of the greatest novels written in the 20th Century,'To Kill A Mockingbird' by Harper Lee, deals with themes of racism and injustice in the Deep South. The novel is set in Lee's home state of Alabama.

The hero of the book, Atticus Finch, is an attorney who, in defiance of intense pressure against him and his family, defends a wrongly accused black man. Atticus Finch has served as a model of courage and integrity for generations of Americans and for people throughout the world.

The novel, published in 1960, was an instant success and earned Harper Lee a Pulitzer Prize. The novel was further immortalized through a 1962 film starring Gregory Peck.

For more than five decades 'To Kill A Mockingbird' was the only novel published by Harper Lee. A few years ago, a manuscript of what is thought to be a first draft of 'To Kill A Mockingbird' was found in Lee's safe deposit box.

That manuscript is titled 'Go Set A Watchman,' and in it, Atticus Finch is portrayed as a racist. It was published this month as a sequel to 'To Kill A Mockingbird.'

It is unlikely that Lee ever wanted that manuscript to be published. Not only are the two Atticus Finches substantially divergent characters, Harper never attempted to publish the manuscript she had written first for decades. It wasn't published until after Harper became so ill that she could not articulate any objection.

Regardless of Lee's intent, we do not have to let this new book take a beloved literary figure from us.